Top Ten Questions a Startup Should Ask an Accountant

What Should You Ask Your Accountant?

When you’re starting up a new company, the temptation is to wear all the hats. After all, it’s your baby and no one understands it like you do. Of course, there’s also the matter of that pesky budget. It stretches a lot further when you’re employing a staff of one.

Of course, the reality is that you can’t do everything yourself. And speaking of budgets, the one area where you truly need some help is your finances. It would be so much simpler if business accounting was just a matter of addition and subtraction. But it’s a complex minefield that takes experience to navigate.

It’s too important of a position to leave to chance. In other words, don’t Google “accountant” and select the first one that pops up. Shop around for a financial expert just like you would for inventory, supplies and equipment. He’ll be working for you, so he should meet the qualifications that you’re looking for.

You don’t have to meet with a prospective accountant in person, but don’t rely on email. If you can’t meet, use Skype or the telephone. Hearing an actual voice helps you get a better sense of a person. Is he confident and well-spoken? Does he hem and haw while searching for answers? This could be the first step in an ongoing relationship, so start it on the right foot.

Be sure you do your homework before your meeting. Here is a checklist of questions that will provide much of the information you’ll need to make an assessment.

  • How long have you been in business? A fledgling firm may not yet be experienced enough to handle your concerns. On the other hand, an accountant who’s been in business for many years may be on the verge of retirement. Find out what the plans of succession are so you’re not left hanging.
  • Will I be assigned to one person? Some accounting firms operate on a call center basis, with associates taking calls on a rotating basis. If your account is specifically assigned to an accountant, the two of you will be able to develop a relationship and he’ll get to know your particular business much better.
  • What services do you offer? There are several subcategories under the heading of finance. Are you looking for tax preparation help? Do you want someone to handle budgeting and cash flow management or strategic planning?
  • How often will we be in contact, and by what means? You want to be on the same page with this issue. If you want to be able to consult on a weekly basis, you don’t want to find out afterwards that he’s available only once a month. Just as with your initial meeting, you should also be able to have personal contact, at least for the major meetings.
  • Are you available year-round? Some accounting firms are open only during tax season when demand for their services is at its peak. However, as a new business you’ll need advice during the rest of the year as well.
  • Make sure you and your accountant are on the same page.What types of businesses do you work with? Restaurants have a different financial agenda than contractors, who in turn are different from graphic artists. It helps to find an accountant who’s familiar with the type of business you’ll be operating.
  • How do you bill for your services, and what’s included in your fee? Some accountants bill by the hour while others charge a flat rate. You might want to consider the former if you’ll be handling most of your finances in-house and consulting only on major issues. Find out exactly what’s covered in the rates so you don’t end up getting nickel-and-dimed on services that turn out to be an extra charge.
  • Do you follow a conservative or aggressive approach? Nearly all financial matters come with risk, and business finances are no exception. For example, some accountants will beat the bushes to write off every possible penny. Others are reluctant to put a client in a position of possibly being red-flagged for an audit. Determine where you fall on this continuum so you find an accountant whose views are compatible with yours.
  • How will I be informed of relevant changes in my industry? A good accountant should keep you abreast of current news and events pertinent to your business, particularly changes in tax regulations.
  • What type of accounting software do you use? If it’s not the same as yours, ask how information and data will be exchanged.

This list can be supplemented or modified based on the needs of your specific business. Overall, it gives you a solid platform to find an accountant who will work as hard for your company as you do.

At Medallion Fulfillment and Logistics we make it easy for startups and new businesses to grow with thoughtful services and flexible order fulfillment options. Call us today to get a free price quote so you can focus on growing your business and leave the shipping to us.

Tips to Moving One-time Shoppers into Lifetime Buyers

California and Massachusetts Fulfillment Services

Year-end holiday sales have traditionally made up at least 20 percent of a retailer’s annual total. Thanks to a strong labor market and a high level of consumer confidence, international business consulting firm Deloitte is predicting a 3.6 to 4 percent increase in holiday spending for 2016.

Now for the bad news: holiday customers shop with you primarily out of convenience, rather than a strong affinity for your brand. While they have a solid impact on overall business, they rarely translate to repeat customers.

Three Ways to Convert One-time Shoppers to Lifetime Buyers

It costs far more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Here are some tips to keep those lucrative seasonal customers coming back for more.

1. Educate Them

Yes, consumers like to save money, but your brand and its message are what earn their loyalty. Instead of bombarding new customers with come-on’s offering discounts and promotions, follow up with a welcoming email explaining who you are and how your company can solve their problems with your products or services.

2. Add a Personal Touch

With the increasing amount of competition in the marketplace, your company has to stand out above the others to gain sales. Offering superior customer service is a great way to set you apart. Using a proactive approach to address customer questions and concerns demonstrates that you consider them to be more than a faceless seasonal transaction. For many sites chat functions for immediate interaction is a great way to add a personal touch.

3. Retarget One-Time Customers

Converting seasonal customers means getting them to think of your company as a year-round solution to their needs. Social media lets you target specific audiences with information such as new products, coupons and even “non-ads” thanking customers or asking for feedback.

Focus on Marketing and Let Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics Handle the Rest

Sales and marketing is a full-time job and should have your focus to help your business grow. Leave the ordering, warehousing, packing and shipping to us. We have more than 25 years of experience in providing professional and cost-effective fulfillment services so you can concentrate on growing your business. Contact us today for more information.

Not All Website Traffic is Equal – How to Get More High Quality Traffic

Important News and Reminders for January

Are you confusing high website traffic counts with high-quality website traffic? If you take a look at the numbers from your ecommerce website, you’ll quickly see all traffic is not created equal. You need the right people – the right demographic, the right segment – to do more than take a Sunday drive through your site – you need them to buy-in.

How Can You Attract More High-Quality Website Traffic to your Online Store?

There are a number of ways you can accomplish this, each targeting a specific genre of people. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and well-known options.

• Blogs

Blogs pull-in traffic via educational material, FAQs, and industry trends. 409-million browsers view more than 22-billion blog pages monthly, generating an average of 76-million posts and 42-million comments on WordPress alone.

How many do you need? Those blogging 16-times+ monthly generate 3.5-times more traffic than those blogging 4-times or less. But you’ll need a strategic plan. Pro-Advice: Don’t waste precious time and energy if this isn’t your wheelhouse; enlist the help of content marketing professionals who understands the ever-changing dynamics of SEO.

• Social Media

Social media channels are endless. The biggest? Facebook, with over 2-billion active monthly users, and Twitter, with 286.3-million. Facebook encompasses a broader segment, where by-and-large, Twitter is more popular with young adults. Like blogging, targeting quality traffic here takes time, research, and effort. Pick 1-2 channels that make the most sense.

The goal? It’s not attracting users waiting around for a “flash-sale” – but providing a virtual hangout for your target demographic. Don’t get it? Checkout this Twitter page to understand more.

• Video

Video is exploding, with YouTube dominating the market (1-billion+ users). All-ages use it – and it reaches 95% of online adults 35+ per month. With such a massive audience, choosing keywords that send you to the top of search results (getting you to your key demographic) is mission-critical – so do your homework!

• Podcasts

Podcasting opens you up to a wide variety of end-users, but is isn’t necessarily optimized to net traffic. There’s no call-to-action – its corresponding show notes, blogging and social posts that drive marketing, with the end goal of building brand awareness and loyalty (regular listeners/customers).

Remarkable Content Generates a Remarkable Link to Consumers

Key to getting items from cyberspace to your fulfillment warehouse is content quality that appeals to relevant consumers. Content that simply fills digital space won’t rise to the top. You must strive to help buyers through their journey, exploring issues they’ll encounter in the research process, promoting the nurturing relationship they crave and winning them over as to why doing business with you is in their best interest.

Spending money and time on ho-hum, keyword-focused content won’t get you there. Work backwards, providing content that confronts issues customers face – or problems your products solve, standing-out by providing insight/solutions others don’t.

Things picking up? From drawing customers in to getting product out the door, Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics has you covered. Discover more about our versatile fulfillment warehouse solutions today.

How Fulfillment Service Impacts Customer Satisfaction

“If people are failing, they look inept. If people are succeeding, they look strong and good and competent. That’s the “halo effect.” Your first impression of a thing sets up your subsequent beliefs. If the company looks inept to you, you may assume everything else they do is inept.” – Daniel Kahneman

When you work with a fulfillment partner, it is easy to oversimplify their involvement. True, a fulfillment house picks and ships orders. How could that hurt customer satisfaction?

Final Hands

Simply put, they are the last hands to touch your products and they are responsible for delivering the final product to your customers. To see where you stand, ask yourself a few questions:

• When your customer receives an order, how does it look?

• What packaging materials are used?

• How quickly does it arrive?

• How is the tracking information transmitted?

• How are returns handled?

If you have not audited the results in a while, it may be time to check your fulfillment results. Check our Guide for Fine Tuning Fulfillment for more tips and remember: A great fulfillment provider increases customer satisfaction, while a poor provider can actually damage satisfaction.

Case Study

One of our clients moved from a different 3PL because of customer dissatisfaction. The business started receiving complaints that orders were arriving in junky old boxes with newspaper used as packaging. Many orders were incorrectly shipped, leading to reshipments and delays.

If customers had not reported these issues, our client would not have known the impression their former 3PL was leaving on the customers. You have spent time and money making a good impression on customers. The last thing you need is a lousy box or a packing error to erode your credibility.

Errors Undermine Credibility

Mistakes not only cost money and time, but they damage customer trust. Medallion and Sprocket Express have a 99.9%+ accuracy rate and exceptional customer service personnel. In the case study above, errors and complaints stopped after the business switched to Sprocket Express for fulfillment for East Coast servicing. Customers almost never received incorrect items again, and the clean uniform packaging made a great impression on the recipients. The client added a packing tape printed with their logo, for a complete branded solution.

Speedy Delivery

When we first opened, our CEO used to joke that someday customers would hit the “buy” button and then check the mailbox. Ironically, we’ve nearly reached that point!

With Amazon leading the charge, customers continually have a higher expectation of speed (and shipping cost). To answer the call, most 3PLs expect to provide same day delivery within the next 5 years. And 40% say they anticipate 2 hour shipping by 2028. Interestingly, when Amazon offered 1- and 2-hour delivery in select markets, many customers preferred the free 2-day shipping instead. Speed is not everything, but shipping value is essential. The best shipping strategies offer a few options with a range of costs.

Knowledge is Satisfying

Immediately after placing an order, most website systems generate an order confirmation email. The more transparency a business provides during the order process, the more confident a customer can feel when interacting with the company. Therefore, as soon as an order is released to a carrier for shipment the tracking information should be communicated in real-time.

Both Sprocket Express and Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics sends automatic tracking information to your customer. And we can brand the email with your company information for a consistent image. We ship the same day and we also offer rush and special services.

We Are Here When You Need Help

These are just some of the ways that your fulfillment service partner can affect customer satisfaction. We strongly encourage you to call references when choosing a fulfillment provider and ask some of these questions. Your choice will be representing your business in public view, so it’s no easy decision.

Whichever partner you choose, we invite you to connect with us to share challenges and ideas via email or social media. To learn more about our services and our low industry pricing, see “What We Do”, or get a quote today.

Priority Mail Express International Guarantee Suspended to Certain Countries

USPS just announced disruptions to International service. According to the USPS,the data is constantly being revised. Please review this page to get the most up-to-date information.

Due to airline travel restrictions and cancellations, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has temporarily suspended the guarantee on Priority Mail Express International destined to China, France, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. These suspensions will be in effect until further notice. The Postal Service is taking all reasonable measures to minimize impact to our customers.

Starting 4/3/2020 USPS will not accept shipments to these 22 countries (see list below).

USPS is going to block USPS, GAP and GP shipments to the 22 impacted countries now. This will affect both Stamps and Endicia customers.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. We don’t know what the error messages will be yet (in applications), but the shipments will be blocked from printing.

At the bottom of the list is a link to USPS website where you can track the status of shipping updates by country.

The list of countries included in the Temporary Service Suspension has just been updated as noted below.

Botswana
Cayman Islands
Chad
Ecuador
Fiji
French Polynesia
Honduras
India
Kuwait
Libya
Madagascar
Maldives
Mongolia
New Caledonia
Panama
Peru
Samoa
South Africa
Bolivia
Sri Lanka
Zimbabwe

Please visit the USPS International Service Alerts page for the most up to date information.